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Trail work has political aims

The Friends of Strathcona Park promise legal action if horse use permit granted
View from Bedwell Lake on Bedwell Centennial Trail. Friends of Strathcona Park recently did trail work in a politically intentioned effort to re-open the trail.

The Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) recently completed more work on the Bedwell Centennial Trail in an effort to attract attention to a controversial issue.

This trail, which runs 28 kilometres from Bedwell Lake in the alpine to the head of Bedwell Inlet on the West Coast, has been closed to the public for the last three years because of deteriorating conditions, and FOSP has been clearing sections of the trail since 2009 in an effort to re-open it.

In August of 2010, they cleared an alternate route at the start of the trail on the west side of the Island for political reasons. Clayoquat Wilderness Adventures (CWR), a resort located on the West Coast in the Bedwell Valley, has offered to fix the original part of the trail – which starts near the resort and follows old logging roads – as well as provide ongoing maintenance to this section in return for a permit allowing horse use on the trail.

FOSP are opposed to CWR being permitted to use horses in Strathcona Park, so it decided to brush out the alternate route in an effort to show B.C. Parks that they do not need the resort to repair the original trail. But B.C. Parks still plans to grant the permit in exchange for the trail repairs.

“It demonstrates viable public alternatives that are being rejected by the government in favour of private commercial interests,” said FOSP director Kel Kelly. “It’s setting a precedent for the privatization of B.C.’s public park land.”

This year FOSP received approval from B.C. Parks to clear the easterly section from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek, however, they did not receive approval to clear a section of about 5 kilometres between Sam Craig and Ashwood Creeks in the middle of the trail; finishing this section would mean the trail was fully brushed out.

According to Kelly, this section of trail is where the original route divides from the alternate one FOSP created in 2010, and he believes B.C. Parks didn’t give FOSP approval to brush out this section because it wants the resort to fix the original trail.

Don Cadden, Regional Manager for BC Parks for West Coast Region, said the alternative trail has not been assessed for use.

“There’s the political opposition to this and then there’s the practical operational side of this trail,” said Cadden.

“The alternate route was just a kind of primitive trail that they had brushed out; it’s not a trail that’s been created up to BC Park trail standards.”

The section of trail the resort has offered to fix would be expensive as a number of bridges are located along it, and the resort would cover all of the costs, according to Cadden.

Cadden, whose office is making the decision on the park use permit for CWR, said it will be granted in the foreseeable future, pending approval of language in the permit draft.

“I let them know that I was prepared to approve a permit based on agreement of the final permit conditions,” said Cadden.

According to Cadden, B.C. Parks has now approved the draft on its side, and has sent it to CWR to approve.

Then the draft will go to the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee (SPPAC) for recommendations, however SPPAC doesn’t need to actually approve the draft for the permit to go through, as they aren’t a decision making body.

FOSP has legal representation ready to fight the permit if it’s approved.

“We believe we have a very strong legal case that we could quash any park use permit that was granted by this government,” said Kelly.

If granted, the permit will allow CWR to build tent platforms, and toilet facilities along the trail, as well as let its clients use horses on the trail.

While anyone from the public will be allowed to use horses on the trail, Kelly said it will be difficult for anyone but the resort to get their horses into the remote area.

Also, one of the conditions set out in the permit will be for horses to eat sterilized feed to prevent non-native plants from spreading, and droppings would need to be collected, which Kelly said could be hard for the average rider.

Kelly is concerned that this part of Strathcona Park will become less public, and he also worries that CWR will hold more sway over the area in future years.

Cadden said this is not a possibility.

“That’s completely unfounded and not something that we would consider,” said Cadden. “Clayoquot Wilderness Resort has no priority for that trail at all.”

However, he also said that while the tent platforms will be open to the public, some of them will be designated for resort use only while its horses are on the trail.

Kelly said FOSP will continue trying to get B.C. Parks approval to finish the mid-section of the trail so its alternate route will be connected to the rest of the trail.

“We will continue to negotiate and we hope that we will receive Parks approval to turn that into the official trail because it best meets the public interest,” said Kelly.


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